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US assails Iranian space program after reports of second failed launch

Iranian Simorgh rocket - The opening of Imam Khomeini National Space Agency (RA). (Tasnim News Agency/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The United States has again accused Iran of developing and testing ballistic missiles in “defiance of the international community” after reports of a second failed space launch by Tehran in less than a month.

In a statement late on February 7, the State Department asserted that space launch vehicles “use technologies that are virtually identical and interchangeable with those used in ballistic missiles, including in Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs).”

The attempted launch earlier on February 7 “furthers Iran’s ability to eventually build such a weapon that threatens our allies,” it added.

Two satellite imagery companies released photos that suggested Iran had attempted a second launch of a satellite after the failure of another lift-off in January.

It was not immediately known if the launch was successful, and Tehran has not commented publicly.

Tehran acknowledged the first failure in January, with Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi telling state TV that the rocket carrying the Payam (Message) satellite failed to reach the “necessary speed” in the third stage of launch.

Tehran said it would launch a second satellite, called a Doosti (Friendship), in the near future.

President Hassan Rohani said the satellites were intended to gather information on environmental change in Iran.

In its statement, the State Department said that “the Iranian regime has continued to exploit the goodwill of nations and defied multiple [UN] Security Council resolutions in its quest for a robust ballistic missile force.”

Tehran “continues to increase its investment in missile testing and missile proliferation even as its economy crumbles and its people suffer,” it added.

“We must bring back tougher international restrictions to deter Iran’s missile program. The United States will continue to be relentless in building support around the world to confront the Iranian regime’s reckless ballistic missile activity.”

It said Washington “will continue to impose sufficient pressure on the regime so that it changes its malign behavior — including by fully implementing all of our sanctions.”

Trump last year withdrew the United States from the 2015 Iran nuclear accord, eventually reimposing sanctions that had been eased in exchange for Tehran curtailing its nuclear programs.

The sanctions have taken a heavy toll on the Iranian economy, leading to sporadic street protests and a near-collapse of the country’s currency.